Joe McPhee

Novio Iolu: Music for a New Place

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This series of duets by American vanguard hero Joe McPhee and French flutist Jerome Bourdellon is the most abstract music McPhee has ever collaborated on. These five duets, which incorporate the full range of flutes, including bass and shakuhachi, and McPhee playing alto clarinets, didjeridu, and pocket trumpet are meditative in nature and structurally impossible to define. It would appear that each sound is made from the perspective of space itself, from the first moments of "This Space Is Time," for alto clarinet and bass flute, through the more rhythmic "Please No World Music," on the didjeridu and shakuhachi, to the final moments of "Enough Is Enough" at the end. Each sound is placed in the context to space first and then the other sounds being made. There is no playing around each other here, only directly to space itself and through one another to achieve that timbral condition. Notions of color, duration, texture, etc., are meaningless in this music. It never meanders, though it wanders plenty. It doesn't get caught up in itself, but is itself entirely and never seeks either confirmation or recognition from one player to the other. It is contained with the space of sound and the space of silence. In a sense, this is a very Zen-like recording in that it has nothing to discover because everything is already present and visible. If this seems insular, it's only because it is, but not pretentiously so; it is insular in that this music seeks to express only what it does and nothing more. Wish more free music recordings were like it.

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